Police officer numbers down 6,000
Published 26/01/2012 | 16:32
The number of police officers has fallen to its lowest level in a decade as a police chief warned cuts had left his force "on a metaphorical cliff edge".
There were more than 6,000 fewer officers in England and Wales at the end of September last year compared with the year before, more than 9,000 fewer police staff, and more than 900 fewer community support officers.
But the number of specials - unpaid volunteers - rose by more than 2,500, the Home Office figures showed.
The figures were published as Gloucestershire Chief Constable Tony Melville became one of the most senior officers to speak out against the Government's budget cuts, warning his force was "in the middle of the perfect storm".
"Never before in my 34 years of policing have I experienced an issue which has galvanised staff and officers in the way that this has and I feel compelled to respond," he said.
"We are cutting much, much deeper than was ever intended or required by the CSR (comprehensive spending review). So in a small force, a series of local decisions have combined to take us to a metaphorical cliff edge much more quickly than others."
"These are astonishingly hard-hitting words from a chief constable who has been put in an impossible position by the Government," said shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper.
"David Cameron and Theresa May are letting down communities and turning their backs on the police. They should be battling to cut crime, but they are just cutting the police instead. The Prime Minister's decision to cut policing too far and too fast when many crimes are increasing is putting communities at risk."
But Policing Minister Nick Herbert said: "The strength and quality of frontline policing cannot, and should not, be measured simply in terms of officer numbers. What matters is not the total number of officers employed, but how officers are deployed.
"The best forces had twice the visibility and availability of those at the bottom of the table. So spending isn't the sole issue."